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Friday, 28 November 2008

And the winner is....


Well, this is it folks. We've slaved away for another few hours with the best of this years drams in our sweaty hands and we can finally announce the winner of this years Best in Glass Awards.
It was a very tough line up - thanks to all the suggestions which were sent in that made up our short list of suitably impressive whiskies, but we felt one edged it in terms of character, quality and overall genius.
The winning whisky is the Karuizawa 1971 and we would like to congratulate the distillery and those involved for bringing it to our attention. If you read our recent review, you'll see why it was such a surprise to the senses and warming to our palates and hearts....
It's perhaps a good point to mention that December will be Japanese whisky month, with an interview from Marcin Miller, who is the man at the controls of bringing such delights as the Karuizawa to the UK, as well as numerous other japanese whiskies and lots of other great stuff all Japanese related. Until then, please lift your glasses and give the Karuizawa 1971 a loud cheer!!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The 'Ten Minute Dram With...' Richard Paterson


Continuing with the interview theme which bought you enlightened words from Ardbeg's Mickey Heads and Harlen Wheatley from Buffalo Trace, we bring you another cracker from the legendary and sartorially elegant Mr Richard Paterson, Master Blender for Whyte and Mackay and Dalmore Distilleries. We caught up with Richard in fairly noisy airport lounge for a chat and a dram, before he flew off to the far east, to spread some of his unique wisdom and good cheer.

(Caskstrength)- Describe a regular day in the life of Richard Paterson:


"Well, normally I’d be in the blending rooms for 7.10am checking emails from Japan and the USA – very important markets for us. Then by about 10am most of the blending samples from our distilleries have arrived for me to access their quality and progress- to see how they’re performing before they’re married/after they’re married together and when they’re bottled, it’s very important to see them at all stages of development".

"Once a month, I’ll travel up to Invergordon to assess the new spirit samples- it’s the last time I’ll get to try them until up to 12 years later, depending when they’re blended. We’re also in the process of developing our Rare & Prestige range – 4 expressions have been produced over the last few years- 40 year old Whyte & Mackay, 40 year old Dalmore, 1973 Dalmore and 40 year old Jura. These are being replaced with 1974 Dalmore's and Jura's and I now have to sign around 500 certificates to accompany the bottles, whilst I’m on the plane!"

"It’s really important to keep on producing high quality blends and single malts with consistency so my team and I will try to work ahead of ourselves on the stocks for next year and possibly the year afterwards too. With Whyte and Mackay blends, we have around 35 single malts between 4 and 8 years old - which with the demand from new markets, is difficult to keep stocks of. The good thing is that every week has new challenges to attend to".

With the increasing demand for single casks in general, is it much more difficult now to source what you’re looking for, within the blending processes?

"There is a shortage of both younger and older whiskies – also the factor of very old stocks evaporating in the cask needs to be taken into account. There have been occasions where I have had to marry in much older whiskies into the younger blends to utilise these stocks- there’s a balancing act between keeping our overheads under control and maintaining some of those older stocks".
"The whisky business will always have ups and downs- right now our distilleries are at full production, but no one knows what demand will be like in say, 5-10 years. You always hope you have enough stock. Never in my history of working in the industry have I seen such high demand for scotch whisky, with the new emerging markets in China, Russia and Brazil making a big impression. There are also so many whisky festivals in every country now, which massively helps to promote awareness of the spirit".

We’re seeing that whiskies are becoming a younger past time now – will this influence your approach to blending for the palates of younger drinkers?

"I must admit that I get a bit irate when people talk about ‘older’ people being whisky drinkers and not younger – at the whisky festivals it's mostly 60-70% younger audiences, or ‘more responsible’ drinkers of around 21-35. What we must do is keep reflecting the softness and richness in some of our blends, particularly the older ones, which will give younger palates equal satisfaction and will hopefully bypass the myth that they’re inferior to older, more expensive single malts".
"It’s a process of education, sometimes on how to drink whisky- keeping it in your mouth and using the palate and tongue correctly, not just gulping it down!! I recently had the experience on a tasting, where one of the audience knocked back a 23 year old blend, without giving it time to develop in the mouth, so I slapped him and gave him another sample, to hold in the mouth! After a few more slaps, he realised what he was doing wrong, started to use his palate and tongue properly, whereby his eyes lit up and he suddenly got all the complexities and hidden dimensions within the whisky! It’s like a Jackson Pollock painting, keep looking at his work and you see an inner warmth and soul, which is what younger drinkers must understand; don’t be in a hurry- sip it and savour it".

Having the title of ‘Master Blender’ gives you an enigmatic ‘Alchemists’ image – how much is down to the science of blending great whiskies and how much is down to your instincts and senses?

"Good question- I would say it’s 90% down to instinct and a “feel-good” factor- knowing the whiskies and what their unique characteristics are, using my gut reaction to tell me what to expect. But at that point I have to rely on science to make an analysis for full confirmation of what I’m blending together- working closely with the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, or our own labs gives me a full picture of certain parameters for the various legislation and regulations when releasing a blended whisky".

What has been the pinnacle of your blending career so far?

"1994 was a very hard year for me- the company was going through a restructure and my father had sadly passed away, but at the end of the year, as part of a competition for the International Wine and Spirit Awards, I was asked to create a 500th Anniversary Blend – to commemorate the very first blended scotch whisky. I ended up taking the first place trophy that day, which was great, but I remember it being tinged with sadness, wishing I could have shared the whisky with my father, who was also a blender".

The current resurgence of Whyte and Mackay seems down to the great reviews of the 30 year old, Supreme and Old Luxury etc. How much leeway do you get in creating and maintaining these whiskies?

"Fortunately, I have total autonomy in this area and it’s really important to work ahead of the game- it takes a long time to bring together the whiskies within the older blends - at least two years for the balance to be achieved and for them to settle down, but the rewards are all the greater for it. It’s also really important to take your time and to enjoy the older, rare blends in the correct environment too- with the right food, coffee, dark chocolate or perhaps a cigar- the perfect combinations of all these things can create a multiple orgasm!!"

Has there ever been a rival blend you wish you’d discovered?

"Not really, but I’ve always kept my eye on what others are doing- for instance William Grant and Diageo both have very skilled blending experts such as David Stewart and Maureen Robinson who have produced what I call ‘Golden Nuggets’- really great styles. I don’t get jealous of these creations, it’s more of an admiration of how they use some of the great casks from the various distilleries they own and their well-stocked inventories. Some of the older Ardbeg’s and Glenmorangie’s are also exceptional. It's really down to how you utilise the wood you have – there are some casks which I have in our stocks that will never be re-created by other companies and vice versa".

Have you ever tasted a particular cask and wanted to retire with it?

"When you do find them, you do tend to hold them back for special things, like for instance, with the 500th Anniversary blend. I had some real classics from Longmorn, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Tamdhu, The Glenrothes, Ardbeg and Bruichladdich, which were pure nectar! Also a 30 year-old Scapa too- it’s important not to leave them too long, they will reach a peak and you must use them at the right time. Casks can have good times and bad times, depending on where you store them in the warehouse, the racking and how you’ve looked after them".

What are your thoughts on finishing whiskies in experimental casks?

"I don’t really like the word ‘finishing’- it tends to mean more of a ‘stimulation’, rather than acting to enhance the whisky to make it better. There are no guarantees that you’ll get what you’re looking for, by transferring it into another cask. Over the years, we’ve had some sherry casks which after a year or so we thought we’d have to dump, but it took about 3-4 years for them to come out of the bad patch and after that, they really shone, so it just goes to show you’ve got to be prepared to wait- and at 500 pounds a cask it can be an expensive mistake.
Limousin Oak or Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks can be great, but you have to make sure you nose them every single week, as there can be some undesirable notes appearing, which will hang around and resurface when you’re marrying them and will ruin the harmony of a blend".

Finally, the '64,000' dram question…. Your all time favourite whisky?

"I’d have to say the 52 year old Dalmore is still the epitome of great whisky, but my heart would have to come back to the Whyte and Mackay 40 year old blend, which is a classic aged blend (also containing old Dalmore) but it’s a combination of many old malts that I’ve really truly liked, some going back to 25th December 1964. It’s blended from both grain and malt, but has a 70% malt content, in recognition of a man called John McIlraith who served the company for 70 years! For a man to give that much dedication deserves a whisky of similar dedication".

And on that poignant note, the 'final call for flight D235 to Dubai' arrives over the tannoy and we leave Richard to his several hours of certificate signing. His new book 'Goodness Nose' has just come out, which gives a huge insight into an illustrious career and contains lots of blending secrets, humorous tales and an overriding sense of passion, with which Richard approaches great whisky.

You can buy it here:

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Turning Japanese...I really think so!!


Another first for Caskstrength.net. The following review is the first Japanese whisky we've ever decided to stick up... not because we don't rate them- there are some amazing expressions out there, but we thought that it'd be great to round a bunch up and do a whole month of 'all things Japanese'.
Starting in the first week of December, we'll be bringing you interviews, reviews galore and exclusives on some great Japanese whiskies, and some of the people behind them...

back to the BiG awards nominees- and we're in for an absolute cracker. The Karuizawa distillery was introduced to us only recently and in a very short space of time we've tried to find as much info about the expressions currently being bottled. Our first dram was the stunning 1971 single cask (6878) which really made an impression on us, partly for its rich mahogany colour and wax sealed bottle. It is one of the oldest Japanese whiskies bottled currently, with some equally aged expressions to come. As a contender for the BiG awards this year, we felt it necessary to put it through a vigorous workout, which was clearly an excuse for a few extra lengthy drams!!

Karuizawa Vintage 1971 - single cask no. 6878 - bottled 15/1/08 - 64.1 % - 70cl

Nose: Dark, musty and earthy, like foraging around the woods for wild mushrooms in the autumn. Hints of moss, then digging deeper, florals- passion fruit, sherbet, orange zest and big dark sherry notes.

Palate: 64.1 %... just stop for a second and think how strong that is. This whisky is one of the first we have tried at that incredible strength which needs no water to be perfectly balanced in the mouth, without any numbing of the senses. Incredible stuff. Layers of beautiful fruity zing, this time passion fruit, dried figs, then fresh ground coffee, more sherry and those wild mushrooms. It is one of the most unique and well balanced flavour profiles you'll find in a whisky bottle.

Finish: Hugely rich and warm, with long lasting licorice and sherry notes, keeping your mouth tingling for ages.

Overall: What a way to start our foray into Japanese whiskies. This is a true great and we're really happy for it to be a worthy nominee in our list of 2008's stunners.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

12 steps to Lagaluv'in....


Well, we're not far off the BiG announcement now and us Caskstrengther's are getting frisky with the thought of selecting a superstar dram. We've really had a tricky job over the past couple of weeks in whittling the short list to only 10 top drams- thanks to everyone who sent us their suggestions, we wish we could put them all in, but then, the list would be truly endless !!
So, in keeping with our last posts, here's another cracker for you which has made the final 10 - the awesome Lagavulin 12 year old- 2008 edition.

Lagavulin 12 year old - 2008 edition - 56.4% - 70cl -
Nose: Classic, peerless Islay aromas- zesty, big bold peat, coal tar soap, Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong, sweet cure bacon, sizzling on a wood-fired stove and classic Laga' grit. Sensational.

Palate: Superb mouth feel, oily, rich and unctious. Initial sweetness leads into more of that coal tar soap, then back to sweetness (Cadburys Creme Egg fondant). There's so much going on that you literally can't wait to get another mouthful. A cornucopia of flavour.

Finish: As the sweetness dies away, a slight wine note comes through and layers of warming peaty goodness.

Overall: We recently gave the Feis Ile Lagavulin a stonking review, which is bottled at 15 years. The 16 year old and the awesome 21 year old also knocked us dead... now this just adds to Lagavulin's astonishing portfolio of great spirit. As with the other 12 year old bottlings of the last few years, this is a fairly limited run, so we recommend you grab one asap, crack it open and share it out on the cold and frosty nights we're inevitably in for. It will undoubtedly brighten your lives.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Glenrothes visit part 2- 'The Breakfast Club'




As we left you in part one of this epic thriller, Caskstrength were heading off to bed, full of roast dinner and the excellent 1978 Glenrothes, safe in the knowledge that Obama was about to wrestle away all the previously red states on the election map from McCain.
One thing I didn't mention however was the house rules concerning breakfast at Rothes House. For the uninitiated, it is customary for the guests to cook an impeccable breakfast for the hosts, on this occasion Mr Ronnie Cox and Mr Marcin Miller.

Now this isn't something to be taken lying down, which I was planning to do (in the shape of a lovely lie-in) that is, until I saw the 'Breakfast Book'- a tome full of reviews for the triumphant and the fallen. It contained a detailed critique from both Ronnie and Marcin on every aspect of breakfast- from the laying of the table, crispness of bacon, seasoning of tomatoes and most critically of all- timing!
Yikes- 'we need a plan' I thought and decided to hit the kitchen at 7.30am with my two fellow breakfast crusaders, Miss Malt and Miss Juniper. The Breakfast Book rules were going to be re-written that day and our names etched into the annals of Rothes House history!!...
well, something like that...
Our timing was crack on - and with a table fit for a Scottish Monarch, complete with Miss Malt's place names, came our starter; Bucks Fizz and a fruit salad, steeped in Berry Bros & Rudd's King's Ginger liqueur
So far, so good. Next, a full cooked breakfast, complete with last nights leftover roast veg re- cooked as bubble & squeak, which hopefully caught the eye of our discerning judges- a few points at least for ingenuity??

With our breakfast (hopefully) well received, it was time to head to the distillery for the serious business of a tour of the facilities and tasting.

The Glenrothes is an impressive site developed around 1879. It now houses 5 pairs of wash/spirit stills, producing nearly 4.5 million litres of spirit annually. Glenrothes house style gives a very light, fresh and clean new make spirit with an abundance of vanilla, hints of spice, citrus notes, dried fruit and ginger.
Ronnie recounted a notable incident in the history of the distillery when in 1922, fire broke out and casks were bursting open right left and centre. It is reported that a river of whisky ran down the nearby streets and people were chaotically trying to bottle what they could before it made its way to the fields and streams. It was later reported that cows were seen swaying and that the local fish were much easier to catch...

We later entered the Inner Sanctum, Glenrothes dedicated tasting room and our home for an extremely pleasant couple of hours, sampling a selection of the distillery's core range and a couple of very special drams. Here are the findings:

The Glenrothes 1967 - single cask - American oak (ex sherry) - 47% -

Nose: Seville oranges, minty/Polo hints, golden syrup, aromas of cereal and slightly waxy, polished furniture notes. Excellent and well constructed.
With the addition of a little water, you find more of the orange zestiness.

Palate: A dry start, but leading into fruity sweetness, more cereal, then hints of hard fruit gums and spice.

Finish: Lovely, lengthy and warming. This was an incredibly comforting dram, like sitting in front of a roaring fire.


The Glenrothes 1966 - single cask - european oak (ex-sherry) - 47%
the tasting of this pair of whiskies gives a clear example of how the type of oak ultimately affects the maturity of the spirit- especially the colour, with the 1966 vintage taking on a much darker hue.

Nose: Lots of dried figs and vine fruit, something slightly musty and oily, (old garages with vintage cars!), hints of drying oak and cracked leather. The age has really made a huge statement on this whisky.

Palate: Spice!! Lots of it. Hints of fudge, vanilla and a glorious sweetness. Delicious.

Finish: Again, long, fruity and sensational. We had a break until this had diminished!

Overall: Two very old but very different aged Glenrothes expressions that set us up nicely for the rest of the range.

The Glenrothes 1985- 43%

Nose: Very clean, with estery notes and a creaminess, reminiscent of Werthers Originals, slight waxiness, but then into fruit- plums and dried vine fruits. Excellent.

Palate: Amazing mouth feel, sweet oily and rich, with more of that Werthers butterscotch flavour combined with cereal, toffee, hazelnuts and sultanas. Sounds like a damn good granola doesn't it!

Finish: Warm and autumnal, with more hazelnuts on the death.

The Glenrothes 1994 - 43%

Nose: Esters, hints of ginger, floral notes, toffee notes and hints of fresh berry.

Palate: Cereal then into a sweetness of demerara sugar and drying spices, perhaps even hot peppers before the mouth is enveloped with sherry and licorice notes.

Finish: More summery, lighter and shorter but echoes of an excellent fruity dram. This would be an great pre-barbeque aperitif.

Overall: Both these expressions sit brilliantly among the others from the range of Glenrothes, all have their own distinct characteristics but offer an individual take on a great Speyside distillery, which we urge you to check out!

Special thanks to Ronnie Cox, Caroline Hendry and the team at Glenrothes Distillery/ Rothes House for their wonderful hospitality, knowledge and time, also to Marcin for his excellent hosting, witty banter and James Lock & Co eight-piece flat cap...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The long and winding road to perfection....


As we assembled our short list for this years BiG Awards, there was a slight element of reminiscence when going back to certain whiskies we felt demanded inclusion. The Longrow 18 year old is no exception. Our first chance encounter with this absolute gem was after dinner, in a very remote farmhouse on the north east side of Islay, near Loch Gruinart.

Our very good friends Joanne and Derek Middleton had been kind enough to put Caskstrength up for this year's Feis Ile and we'd decided to cook a mammoth pasta meal, complete with Derek's freshly harvested Mussels (from sea to plate in only one hour!!)
Another whisky chum, Angus popped over and bought a rather fine looking purple box to the table, where on opening, its succulent contents were duly corked and shared around.
We never looked back...phone calls were made, emails fired off and shops tipped off that we simply must get hold of another bottle... Alas, it seemed Islay had sold its last bottle of Longrow 18 to a Scandinavian chap and we felt quite deflated, thinking that London would also be a similarly barren environment.

Then about 2 weeks later, we were musing around a well known spirit emporium in Soho and struck gold- 2 bottles, amazingly left in the store room un-loved and un-noticed, which lit up our eyes and started our mouths drooling in anticipation.

Tasting the Longrow 18 again recently alongside the other nominees was no less of an occasion, but where will it figure in the overall rankings?

Longrow 18 year old - 46% - 70cl - 2100 bottles available.

Nose:
Very unique- an odd mixture of rich fudge, licorice, freshly turned earth, leather, orange zest and slight summer fruits. It really shouldn't work, but it all sits together magnificently. Left to sit a little while and more sherbet notes come through, coupled with creamy butterscotch and orange blossom. A real treat to the senses.

Palate: The treats don't stop with the nose... very light and floral, but mixed with a rich oily mouth feel, you uncover a summery zestiness, perhaps hints of juniper, more fizzing sherbets and sweet fruit gums.

Finish: At this point, my notes seem to be become invaded by Joel's hand written plea of "get me a peshwari naan", as I happened to be on the phone, ordering our takeaway for the evening. I was still tasting the fresh zestiness and elegance five minutes after the call had ended and our Indian feast was being rustled up in a nearby kitchen. Needless to say the glass was well and truly empty by the time it had arrived.

Overall: Wholly deserving of its place on this years BiG nominee list, this is a stupendous whisky and we urge you to locate one... hopefully the luck we were fortunate enough to encounter will be with you too!!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Highland Fling


In keeping with our last post, we have 3 new reviews to give you- all nominees for our prestigious Best in Glass awards, the overall winner to be announced early next month. First up, the oldest chap on Orkney- the stately Highland Park 40 year old.

Highland Park 40 year old - 48.3% abv - 70cl-

Nose: Rich, intense fruity and zesty aroma, hints of vanilla tobacco, fresh mint, white chocolate and soft chamois leather.

Palate: Really smooth mouth feel, silky and coating, with floral notes, cedar, chopped hazel nuts, dark chocolate covered vanilla fudge and a hint of waxy, unprocessed honey all swirl around the palate. Very heady stuff.

Finish: The depth of this finish is exceptional, warming, soft, hints of spicy fruit and more vanilla, lead into a sherbety sweetness, then tobacco and leather as it slowly fades.

Overall: No surprises that this is an incredibly well drinking Highland Park. Its floral lightness, matched with the hints of sweet vanilla are a surprise- sharing some of the 18 year old's refinement, but taking it into a different league. But is it enough to take it into the Pantheon of the Best in Glass supreme champion?? We shall see soon enough!!

They're here!!! The 2008 BiG Award Nominees!!


We've cogitated, conversed and consulted for...oh, at least a week now and it gives us great pleasure to finally announce the inaugural 'Best In Glass' award nominees- and what a cracking line up it is. As mentioned in one of our previous posts, the main criteria for this prestigious award (we like to big things up a little!) is that the whisky must have been commercially released this year and is not a 'restricted bottling'- ie, a club, festival or society bottling. We shall be announcing the overall winner in the first week of December, but one thing is for sure; they all represent the pinnacle of fantastic whisky making. For the rest of this month we shall be re-reviewing all ten whiskies (with new postings of the Karuizawa, Lavavulin, Longrow & Highland Park) to look for those minuscule pointers that will lead to the eventual overall winner.

Whilst clearly ranging in price, we felt that this list balances age, refinement and value for money very well indeed- please feel free to add your comments on the nominees and let us know if there's anything you feel we've missed off, or was more deserving of a nomination:


Stay tuned for the result and the winners tearful acceptance speech!!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

from Gauger to Geisha.... without any underwear!




So... election night has come and gone and we now face the prospect of real change in the 'Land of the Free', by way of a crushing landslide victory. Doesn't it feel nice to read some positive words on the front cover of every daily paper at long last? Well done to Mr Obama for seizing the reins and good luck in steering a clear path to prosperity.
Anyway, this post is not about political high-fives, so back to the whisky, that is, unless the President is a secret malt maniac and fancies an interview on our favourite subject.

Caskstrength recently had the marvellous opportunity to travel up to the heart of Speyside and to The Glenrothes, as guests of the distillery. Flights were booked and noses honed for what shaped up to be a wonderful experience- but as you will see, it is always better to follow the instructions, to avoid total embarrassment.
Arriving at Gatwick airport on a cold and frosty Tuesday morning in ones fine, but slightly tight fawn tweed trousers is a good way to get a few smiles from the assembled air hostesses, especially when surrounded by hundreds of unremarkable businessmen with 'bright brown' ties and impending Powerpoint presentations.
After scooting through security, I settled down with some light refreshment- in this instance, a quick dram of the excellent Glenlivet Nadurra, noting how well my trip was going so far- no travel hitches, delays or catastrophes.
So on my arrival into Aberdeen, still on time and in a chipper mood, I met the even more chipper Marcin Miller and immaculately chappish Ronnie Cox, my hosts for the trip. All good so far, until I noticed Marcin's slight double-take when I said I wasn't travelling with ANY luggage. 'Oh, you do travel light!' he joked, as we went through the plans for the trip. It was at this point that the mention of an 'overnight stay' hit me like a mouthful of new-make-spirit going down the wrong pipe. In my excitement, I had neglected to read the full itinerary beforehand and assumed the trip was a simple one-day tasting event.

Oh dear. No clean undergarments, toothbrush, alternative tweed trousering, or moustache wax.
All this left me with a slight 'gents quandary';
1. Go 'commando' on the 2nd day or,
2. Make an emergency stop somewhere for overnight supplies.

Wisely, for the sake of the other guests, we opted for the latter and about 20 miles out of Aberdeen I was kitted out with new Asda under-breeches and grooming apparel.
My fellow companions for the visit were Miss Malt, aka Helen Arthur, author of the world's best-selling whisky book and Miss Juniper, aka Geraldine Coates, leading authority in the world of all things gin related. Once the ridicule regarding my emergency pants was over, we got down to discussing the wonderful scenery as the miles passed by towards Glenrothes: The stories of the hidden, illicit pot stills and of the gaugers futile attempts to locate them. Also Marcin's experiences of a Geisha, but that is clearly a story not to be discussed here...

Rothes House was to be our home for the next 2 days. A wonderfully appointed old Manse with great views over Speyside, it is a short walk over to the distillery, past a small graveyard. After a hearty lunch of warming fish pie, we headed off for a bracing afternoon of activity, where Miss Malt discovered she was a crack shot and I discovered I was dire at driving blind...

Our evening consisted of sensational supper of fillet of beef and Scottish Toffee cake matched with 2 excellent Glenrothes expressions:

The Glenrothes 1991 - bottled in 2007- 43% - 70cl

Nose: Sweet candifloss, but dig deeper- slight hints of root vegetable and Baklava- honey and pastry, pistachio, musk?


Palate: More vegetables, but sweet and spicy, like sweet potato. A slight aroma of Earl Grey /bergamot notes. This leads into cereal flavours but then gives way dry sherry.

Finish: More spice, sherry notes and green leaves on the death.

Overall: A damn good dram. Ronnie Cox's ethos here is refinement and maturity over age, which clearly wins through on this expression.

The Glenrothes 1978 - bottled in 2008- 43% - 70cl

Nose: Vanilla custard, melon, summer pudding, ginger, slight tobacco, nutmeg, diced apple, cloves and citrus notes (seville oranges) phew!!! a mammoth in the world of sensuous aromas.

Palate: Sherbet, slight orange zest, caramel, cherries, dark chocolate - perhaps kirsh?

Finish: Sweet, spice, fudge - really refined- mature and lengthy...

Overall: A superb after dinner dram, highly complex in aroma but subtle and beautifully refined. A whisky of real class.

As we settle in the drawing room with a cigar or two, waiting for the first US election results to arrive on BBC2, I imagine it to be the sort of evening that one would reminisce about in 30 years time, vividly remembering 'what we were doing' when President Obama bought change to the White House. One thing's for certain; my memories will go hand in hand with the good company, wonderful hospitality and sensational whisky shared and enjoyed that evening. Slainte!!

Part 2 of Caskstrength's Glenrothes adventure will follow shortly....